As your baby becomes more mobile and inquisitive, infant development takes off. It might seem that your baby learns something new every day. Understand your baby's next infant development milestones and what you can do to promote his or her growth.What to expect
Your baby will continue to grow and develop at his or her own pace. From ages 7 to 9 months, your baby is likely to experience:
- Advancing motor skills. By this age, most babies can roll over in both directions — even in their sleep. Some babies can sit on their own, while others need a little support. You might notice your baby beginning to scoot, rock back and forth, or even crawl across the room. Some babies this age can pull themselves to a standing position. Soon your baby might cruise along the edge of the couch or coffee table.
- Improved hand-eye coordination. Most babies this age transfer objects from one hand to another or directly to their mouths. Pulling objects closer with a raking motion of the hands will give way to more-refined movements, such as picking up objects with just the thumb and forefinger. This improving dexterity will help your baby handle a spoon and soft finger foods.
- Evolving communication. Your baby will communicate with you through sounds, gestures and facial expressions. You'll probably hear plenty of laughing and squealing. Your baby might even respond to his or her own name. Babies this age can distinguish emotions by tone of voice. They might repeat the sounds they hear — or give it their best shot. Your baby's babbling is likely to include chains of sounds, such as "ba-ba-ba." You might even pick out an occasional "mama" or "dada."
- Stranger anxiety. Many babies this age become wary of strangers. Your baby might resist staying with anyone other than you, shunning even grandparents or familiar baby sitters. If your baby fusses when you leave — or melts down entirely — resist the temptation to sneak away. Say goodbye with a hug and kiss and a reminder that you'll be back soon. Chances are, your baby will stop crying as soon as you're out of sight and something else grabs his or her attention. You might even plan ahead of time how the caregiver will distract your baby.
- Teething. If your baby still has a toothless grin, you can expect the first tooth anytime. You might notice your baby drooling more than usual and chewing on just about anything. Offer a cold washcloth or teething ring. Ideally, you've been running a clean, damp washcloth over your baby's gums every day to keep bacteria from building up. When your baby's first teeth appear, switch to a small, soft-bristled toothbrush. Until your child learns to spit — at about age 3 — use a smear of fluoride toothpaste no bigger than the size of a grain of rice.
For babies of any age, learning and play are inseparable. To support your budding adventurer:
- Create an exploration-safe environment. Keep only safe objects within your baby's reach. Move anything that could be poisonous, pose a choking hazard or break into small pieces. Cover electrical outlets, use stairway gates, place cords from blinds or shades out of reach, and install child locks on doors and cabinets. If you have furniture with sharp edges, remove it from rooms where your baby plays. The same goes for lightweight objects your baby can use to pull himself or herself to a standing position, such as plant stands, decorative tables, potted trees and floor lamps.
- Keep chatting. You've likely been talking to your baby all along. Keep it up! Narrate what you're doing, and give your baby time to respond. Say something to your baby and then wait for him or her to repeat the sounds. Ask your baby questions that involve more than a yes or no response. You might not be able to pick words from your baby's babble, but you can encourage a back-and-forth conversation.
- Teach cause and effect. Push the button on a musical toy and dance to the tune. Open the door on a toy barn and listen to the cow say "moo." Help your baby do the same. Self-confidence will grow as your baby realizes he or she can make things happen.
- Take time to play. By now, you and your baby might be old pros at classics, such as peekaboo, patty-cake and itsy-bitsy spider. Get creative as you add to your repertoire. Crouch behind a chair or the dresser, leaving a hand or foot within your baby's view, and prompt your baby to look for you. Or make an obstacle course. Arrange cushions and pillows on a carpeted floor. Encourage your baby to creep or crawl over the mounds. Stack blocks and invite your baby to knock them down.
- Pull out the books. Set aside time for reading every day — even if it's only a few minutes. Reading aloud is one of the simplest ways to boost your baby's language development. Make it more interesting with facial expressions, sound effects and voices for various characters. Store books within easy reach so that your baby can explore them whenever the mood strikes.
- Turn on the tunes. Music can help soothe, entertain and teach your baby. Try calming lullabies, upbeat children's songs, classical music or your own favorites.
- Encourage experimentation. Toy box aside, help your baby's imagination and creativity take shape. If you're up for a mess, smear applesauce, pudding or another pureed food on the highchair tray and let your baby "paint" with the mixture. Give your baby measuring cups for stacking or clapping together. At bath time, provide small containers and plastic utensils for pouring and mixing.
- Offer a comfort object. Babies this age often form an attachment to a blanket, stuffed animal or other comfort object. Although holding, rocking and cuddling your baby remain important, a comfort object can help your baby feel secure when you're not in sight or when your baby is tired, frightened or upset.
Your baby might reach some developmental milestones ahead of schedule and lag behind a bit on others. This is normal and usually no cause for concern. It's a good idea, however, to be aware of the signs or symptoms of a problem.
Consult your baby's doctor if you're concerned about your baby's development or your baby:
- Doesn't roll over in either direction or sit
- Doesn't reach for objects or put objects in his or her mouth
- Doesn't respond to sounds or visual cues
- Doesn't babble, coo or imitate common sounds
Trust your instincts. The earlier a problem is detected, the earlier it can be treated. Then you can set your sights on the milestones that lie ahead.